Andrew Coombs backed by fellow lock Ian Evans
FRANCE v WALES (Today, KO 5pm)
ANDREW Coombs is being backed to shine again for Wales today by his second row partner Ian Evans after an impressive debut last weekend.
The Newport Gwent Dragons star fully deserves his place in the starting XV, according to old adversary and new international comrade Evans.
Converted back rower Coombs’ performance was one of the few pluses from last Saturday’s numbing 30-22 defeat to Ireland in Wales’ Six Nations opener in Cardiff.
Veteran Evans, who made his Wales debut seven years ago, will be glad to have him by his side at the Stade de France this evening.
The Ospreys lock and Coombs, who are both 28, first clashed on the field when they went to different schools in the Cynon Valley.
“I’ve known Coombsie since he was in Ysgol (Gyfun) Rhydywaun and I was in Blaengwawr (Comprehensive School),” Evans said. “We played against each other many times in junior and youth rugby, so I knew just what he would bring and he delivered that last weekend. He more than put his hand up again for selection and deserves it.”
South African-born Evans believes former Newport captain Coombs’ experience in the back row can also only be a good thing.
“He’s played in the back row and he has moved up to the second row,” he said. “I think we are lucky to have that kind of player with back row experience.
“It’s a different ball game in the second row but I suppose it does add to his strength really.”
Evans, a 2008 and 2012 Grand Slam winner who wins his 27th cap today, knows Wales will have to match France’s forwards if they are to halt their eight-match winless streak.
“They didn’t have a good day out in Italy did they (France lost 23-18 to the Azzurri in Rome last Sunday)?” he said.
“You saw what the Italians did to them and it’s like any other game – you’ve got to win the battle up front.
“Their locks are a typical French pair. I think they are heavy, big physical second rows.
“I think that’s what the French rely on, a big front five. It will be a physical battle.”